On Thursday, August 18th, my parents took me to Proctors to see the afternoon show of “West Side Story.” The show was an updated version of the 1957 Broadway musical which was written by Arthur Laurents, dance choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with lyrics and music composed by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, respectively.
To give you some background as to how I found out about “West Side Story,” it was when I was in seventh grade music class, towards the end of the school year. We were learning about Broadway musicals. As a bit of a treat, since it was the end of the year, our music teacher said that we would be watching the 1961 movie of “West Side Story.” No one in class seemed too thrilled, but I figured I’d give it a chance.
After the 45 minutes of class was finished, I couldn’t wait to see more of the movie the next day. After three days of watching the movie, I really liked it and wanted to see the actual Broadway musical.
“West Side Story” is based on William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet,” with the story set in a more modern time – the west side of New York City in the 1950s. Before all of the events in the musical happen, the Jets – a gang of American boys – are the top gang in the area. That is before the Sharks – a gang of immigrant boys from Puerto Rico – arrive. The Sharks, different from other gangs the Jets have met
and beaten, are threatening to take a piece of the Jets’ turf away. Riff (Joseph J. Simeone) and the rest of the Jets decide to challenge Bernardo (Michael Scirotto) and the rest of the Sharks to a rumble; the Jets’ best guy fights the Sharks’ best guy. Riff goes over to Doc’s (John O’Creagh) shop to try and convince former Jets leader Tony (Kyle Harris) to come to the dance that night at the school gym so they could challenge Bernardo and his gang to a rumble. At the dance, Tony meets Maria (Ali Ewoldt), Bernardo’s younger sister, and they fall in love. Which Bernardo is unhappy about. Later that evening, the Jets and the Sharks meet up at Doc’s store for a war counsel. Riff and Bernardo agree that both of their best fighters will fight under the highway, with Tony convincing them to make it a fair man-to-man fight. The next evening, everything goes terribly wrong during the rumble. Blades are brought out, and one guy from each gang is killed, with Tony accidentally killing Maria’s brother Bernardo. Maria’s Puerto Rican beau Chino (Jay Garcia) goes looking for Tony for revenge, and Anybodys (Alexandra Frohlinger), a girl that really wants to be a Jet, tries to help find Tony before more blood is shed. But it all ends in tragedy.
The acting in “West Side Story” was very good. Each actor’s performance seemed real and believable. What I found very interesting was that the actors that were part of the Sharks spoke and sang in Spanish. Doing this made the acting seem more realistic. I found the chemistry between Maria and Tony a little odd – it almost
seemed forced. But the chemistry between Anita (Michelle Aravena) and Bernardo seemed realistic and natural.
The dance numbers were very well choreographed; with the fight scenes exciting. All the dances fit the mood of the songs and scenes. Every dance number was very well rehearsed. All the actors were in sync. They danced at the same time and no one was off- beat. My favorite dance number was in the school gym when the two gangs and their girls have a dance competition. I liked this part because it showed how different the Sharks and Jets are, and how each want to be better than the other.
Kyle Harris (Tony). Joseph J. Simeone (Riff), Alexandra Frohlinger (Anybodys), Michelle Aravena (Anita), and Drew Foster (Action)’s singing was on key and pleasant to listen to. Ali Ewoldt (Maria)’s singing bothered my ears a little and wasn’t as good as I was hoping it would be. I was hoping her singing would flow smoothly and
be melodic but show emotion too. Her singing didn’t flow smoothly, but she did show emotion in her singing. My favorite songs were ‘America’, ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’, and ‘Jet Song’.
The costumes fit each of the character’s personalities. For example Drew Foster, who played Action, wore a white t-shirt with a tie, and wore jeans with a chain on them, and an orange bandana around his head. Action is tough and it’s hard for him to keep calm; kind of like a kid with ADD.
I enjoyed “West Side Story”. There was humor, drama, and romance. I recommend that anyone who likes the story of “Romeo and Juliet” to go see it. I do caution that if you have younger kids, it may not be very appropriate for them, especially the song ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’. There is some swearing and suggestive material.
“West Side Story” played at Proctor’s from August 16th to August 21st.
Review by Allison G, 14-year-old Nippertown high school freshman